Trump, Xi set for high-stakes trade war talks in Japan

OSAKA/NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are set for a high-stakes meeting in Japan on Saturday that could salvage trade talks or plunge the world’s two largest economies into a deeper trade war.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping meet business leaders at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

The dispute has already cost companies in both countries billions of dollars, disrupted global manufacturing and supply lines, and roiled global markets.

Trump said on Friday he hoped for a productive meeting with Xi, the first between the two leaders in seven months. But the U.S. president has said he would extend tariffs to cover almost all imports from China into the United States if there was no progress from the meeting on wide-ranging U.S. demands for economic reforms.

The trade war and signs of a global economic slowdown have overshadowed the two-day Group of 20 summit in Osaka, where the two presidents will hold one-on-one talks on Saturday.

The best-case scenario for the talks would be a resumption of trade negotiations, Marc Short, the chief of staff for U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, told reporters at the White House on Friday.

The United States says China has been stealing U.S. intellectual property for years, forces U.S. companies to share trade secrets as a condition for doing business in China, and subsidizes state-owned firms so they can dominate both domestic and international business.

China says the United States is making unreasonable demands and must also make concessions.

“We feel the U.S. side is exerting extreme pressure,” a Chinese diplomat told Reuters on Friday on condition of anonymity.

“It is raising many demands but doesn’t want to make concessions.”

The dispute escalated when talks collapsed in May after Washington accused Beijing of reneging on reform pledges. Trump raised tariffs to 25% from 10% on $200 billion of Chinese goods, and China retaliated with levies on U.S. imports.

As relations between the two countries have soured, the dispute has spread beyond trade. The U.S. administration has declared Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei HWT.UL a security threat, effectively banning U.S. companies from doing business with it.

U.S. officials have also put pressure on other governments worldwide to drop Huawei from plans for fifth generation, or 5G, network development.

Trump has suggested easing U.S. restrictions on Huawei could be a factor in a trade deal with Xi.

China has demanded the U.S. drop the restrictions, and said Huawei presents no security threat.

“This is an attack on China’s right to development,” the Chinese diplomat said.

Several G20 leaders warned on the first day of the summit on Friday that growing Sino-U.S. trade friction was threatening global growth.

“The trade relations between China and the United States are difficult, they are contributing to the slowdown of the global economy,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told a news conference.

Xi warned about the impact of increasing protectionism.

“All this is destroying the global trade order… This also impacts the common interests of our countries, and overshadows peace and stability worldwide,” Xi told a gathering of leaders of the BRICS grouping on the sidelines of the G20.

Reporting by Roberta Rampton in Osaka and Koh Gui Qing in New York; Writing by Simon Webb; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

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